Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Animals' guitarist, Hilton Valentine, has died

The Animals' guitarist, Hilton Valentine, who played the instantly recognizable arpeggios at the beginning of the band's signature song, "The House of the Rising Sun," has died at age 77. (The cause of death has not been reported.)

The Animals' singer, Eric Burden, said: "It really was Hilton who made the early Animals a rock band because I don’t think the element of rock was in the band until we found him."

I've previously blogged other versions of that traditional folk song, from Leadbelly's acoustic blues, to Frijid Pink's hard rock, to a bunch of old computers! But the Animals' 1964 version is definitive.


According to John Steel, Bob Dylan told him that when he first heard the Animals' version on his car radio, he stopped to listen, "jumped out of his car" and "banged on the bonnet" (the hood of the car), inspiring him to go electric.…

Dave Marsh described the Animals' take on "The House of the Rising Sun" as "the first folk-rock hit," sounding "as if they'd connected the ancient tune to a live wire." Writer Ralph McLean of the BBC agreed that it was "arguably the first folk rock tune," calling it "a revolutionary single," after which "the face of modern music was changed forever."

Wikipedia also points out that it was the first "British Invasion" #1 single "unconnected with the Beatles."

"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (originally performed by Nina Simone the year before, in 1964):